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A flooring comparison: the impact of rubber mats on the health, behavior, and welfare of group-housed sows at breeding

By M. R. P. Elmore, J. P. Garner, A. K. Johnson, B. T. Richert, E. A. Pajor

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Comfortable flooring may impact many aspects of an animal's welfare, including lying behavior, an animal's ability to change postures, and incidence of lameness and lesions. Therefore, we hypothesized that the addition of rubber mats to stalls of group pens would improve sow health, comfort and welfare during breeding. In this study, Landrace x Yorkshire sows (128) were mixed post-weaning and housed in pens of four. The pens contained a slatted group area and four feeding stalls. Rubber mats (measuring 1.83 m x 0.61 m x 1.27 cm) were added to the feeding stalls of half of the pens and rotated to the opposite pens for each replication. The behavioral time budgets of the sows were recorded throughout the experiment; lesion and lameness scores were collected prior to mixing and at the end of the experiment. Data were analyzed as repeated measures mixed models with post hoc Tukey tests. The pattern of behaviors performed in the stall versus group area was different for mat and concrete treatments (REML: F2,56=12.98; P<0.001). Tukey tests revealed that only resting behaviors were affected. We then examined resting behavior in detail. Time spent in different resting postures (sternal versus lateral lying) differed between treatments (REML: F1,30=4.92; P=0.03), where sows on mats spent more time lying laterally (P<0.05) and performed more of their lying behavior in the stalls (GLM: F1,22=14.88; P=0.001) compared to sows on concrete. Additionally, sows stood up and laid down more frequently (GLM: F1,30=13.53; P=0.001) than sows on concrete. Warm temperatures reduced resting behavior in the stalls (REML: F2,56=8.75; P<0.001). Sows in matted pens had a lower total lesion score at the end of the experiment in comparison to sows in concrete pens (REML: F1,30=5.03; P=0.03). Lameness scores did not differ between treatments. These results imply that the provision of alternative comfort flooring may provide welfare benefits to breeding sows, though environmental temperature needs to be considered when providing rubber mats.

Date 2010
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 123
Issue 1/3
Pages 7-15
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.11.012
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Sciences, Center for Food Animal Well-Being, Purdue University, Poultry Science Building, 125 South Russell Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2042, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. animal breed
  3. Animal diseases
  4. Animal genetics
  5. Animal nutrition
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Dog Breeds
  8. Environment
  9. Feeding
  10. Floors
  11. Health
  12. Incidence
  13. Lameness
  14. Land
  15. Lesions
  16. Mammals
  17. Meat animals
  18. models
  19. peer-reviewed
  20. pens
  21. Pigs
  22. sows
  23. stalls
  24. Swine
  25. temperatures
  1. peer-reviewed